Director James Burrows reveals why ABC had to dumb down Joey in Friends. Played by Matt LeBlanc, Joey is a relaxed member of the Central Perk group. Known for his penchant for eating, aspirations as an actor, and having an active dating life, Joey was as integral to Friends' success as anyone else in the show's core cast. Noticeably, however, Joey was slower than his friends, which was an intentional creative decision.
Having directed 15 episodes of the show, including the Friends pilot, Burrows reveals in his new book, Directed by James Burrows, that he instigated the change in LeBlanc's character. Apparently, Burrows thought Joey and Chandler were too similar, which motivated co-creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman to dumb down Joey. Read the related excerpt from the book below:
"I had only one note for David and Marta: Joey and Chandler were too similar. In Joey's original incarnation, he was too smart. They "dumbed" him down a bit so the two characters wouldn't play in each other's wheelhouse."
Burrows' concerns about Joey and Chandler being too similar were legitimate. One of the biggest reasons Friends worked is because the main characters are very different from each other. Everyone had their signature quirks and idiosyncrasies, which helped the show appeal to a broader audience because a lot of them can relate to at least one or two of them. While there was no doubt that their friend group as a whole was solid, Friends' best duo was Chandler and Joey.
Joey and Chandler in Friends were always fun, and unlike Monica and Rachel, who are essentially forced roommates, the pair chose to share an apartment with each other. Throughout their many years living under the same roof, they developed a great routine, which somehow worked for them despite having very different schedules. Their collective arc as a duo is also the best in Friends. They dealt with serious issues, including when they fought over Kathy, and even encountered conflict when Joey decided to move out. At the end of the day, however, they remained solid pals — so much so that Monica and Chandler reserved a room for Joey in their suburban home.
Friends may have had to dumb down Joey, but what he lacked in intellect, he made up with other things. He was arguably the most loyal friend out of all the characters in the show. He supported his pals wholeheartedly, even when it got him in trouble. He was also very sweet and protective. Ultimately, his assets far exceeded his flaws.
Source: Directed by James Burrows